We’ve all been there, it’s that time of year when you launch or re-launch a benefits programme or a set of benefit programmes through open enrollment. It’s one of our most critical and yet challenging tasks, with great responsibility and pressure put on us to get it right for our companies and for our employees.
Some of us may dread it, viewing it as an annual administrative headache, whilst others see it as an opportunity to engage with our employees, helping them make important choices for themselves and their families.
Well, I see preparing for your benefit launch as an opportunity, and an exciting one at that. It reminds me of how runners must feel as they prepare for a race — it’s something they’ve been preparing for over months, and are eager and anxious to get to the finish line and see how well they’ve performed, even getting that picture-perfect photo finish.
Isn’t it the same with your benefits programmes? Here’s how you can ensure your own photo finish…
Review last year’s activities
It’s absolutely critical to learn from the past, reflecting on both the successes and failures from the previous year. If it was a race you’d review your previous race time, think through where you did well in the course and where you had challenges, and finally if/when you had problems with your equipment (e.g. shoes, food, fluids). For our benefit programmes there are similarities, reviewing all that you did the previous year to determine what should be replicated and what should be changed regarding your timings, and taking a hard look at your challenges and equipment (in this case, likely your technology and messaging).
An important part of this review is look at feedback from both your project team as well from your employees. Use this all to understand exactly what helped get you to the finish line and what slowed you down.
Set your objectives
Your next race awaits, so it’s time to set your goals. For your benefits programmes, common key performance indicators (KPIs) such as percentage of employees logging into the system, enrolling in the benefit(s) and/or making new choices can help you set objectives and how you’ll measure success. If you do a survey at the end of the launch, you could use KPIs such as percentage of employees saying they understood the benefits and their choices, felt they had enough information, etc. Whatever you do, don’t move onto the next step until you’ve set your objectives. If you skip this then just like a race, how will you know what to aim for (and celebrate!) at the end?
Helps you manage challenges throughout the project
You know who is doing what
You know when each task is happening
Helps you manage costs through the project
Create engaging content and messaging
According to a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, a U.S. nonprofit organisation, 80 percent of benefit plan participants do not read or open communications materials, 49 percent don’t understand the material and 31 percent don’t perceive the value in their benefits. So you’ve got your work cut out for you when it comes to communicating. Here are a few ways to get those numbers back on track:
Consider a teaser campaign, something to grab their attention and get employees interested before your launch begins. By doing this you create interest and excitement, getting people talking about this well before you begin.
Create a great headlineand call to action to make sure they immediately know WIIFM (what’s in it for me). If you don’t do this upfront employees most likely will ignore everything and anything you send their way.
Segment your communications, creating focused, targeted messages aimed at each specific piece of your audience. By doing this employees will again be able to quickly see the WIIFM.
Since we all know that a one-size-fits-all approach never works, create a multimedia approach. This gives you two big wins — first, you make sure you are appealing to your diverse workforce, and second you are sending out multiple messages as we all know that you have to say something multiple times to be heard. Say it once and it’s lost, say it often and it’s found!
Bring together a team
One of the best ways to train for a race is to find your allies. Whether that’s others to train with, a coach or support from your loved ones to just “do you best,” it’s always better with people in your corner. The same is true with your benefits launch, as you can’t do something this big or this important alone. Key members include your project team - helping you share the workload and brainstorm ideas, your managers — you can’t do it without their support to engage with their team members, and champions — who are true advocates and knowledgeable of the benefits programmes they’re championing.
Debra is our Group Reward Director at Reward Gateway. She's our Rewards guru, having over 20 years experience as a rewards leader, speaker, teacher and an author of a book on employee communications. She's most recently known as the co-author of "The Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement," which she's writing with Founder Glenn Elliott.